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Calls for Hamas to free Shalit after five years

    The Chief Rabbi joins a new Board of Deputies campaign to mark the anniversary
    The Chief Rabbi joins a new Board of Deputies campaign to mark the anniversary

    Human rights groups and Jewish organisations have reiterated calls for Hamas to release an Israeli soldier kidnapped five years ago.

    Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was 19 and had been serving in the Israeli army less than a year, was seized by terrorists at the Gaza border on June 25 2006. Hamas have remained intransigent in the face of repeated efforts by Israel and the international community to secure his release.

    Alistair Burt, the British government minister responsible for the Middle East, was among those who called for the soldier to be allowed to return home.

    In a video message he said it was "absolutely time for Gilad to be released, and the impact of this in the region would be immense" and said it was "grossly unfair and wrong" that Hamas continued to block Red Cross access.

    Israeli Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged the international community to act "to end this intolerable situation".

    He said: "I think that the entire civilised community should join Israel and the United States and all of us in a simple demand from Hamas: Release Gilad Shalit."

    The Board of Deputies noted that it had been two years since Hamas offered proof the soldier was alive, which they said was in blatant contravention of international humanitarian law.

    "His family continue to live in a constant state of anxiety and fear, both as to whether he is still alive, and if he is, as to how he continues to bear the conditions of his captivity," they said in a statement.

    "This tragic situation can be brought to an end through constant pressure at home and in the international arena to demand his immediate and unconditional release."

    The board also stressed that Corporal Shalit was not the only Israeli soldier whose whereabouts remained unknown.

    "At this time we also remember and demand the immediate release of all Israeli MIA's: Yehuda Katz, Tzvi Feldman, Zachary Baumel, Ron Arad, Guy Hever, and Majdi Halabi.

    A coalition of Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights groups also released a statement demanding an end to the "inhumane" treatment of the soldier.

    In a plea signed by 12 groups including Israel's B'Tselem, the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and Amnesty International, they said Hamas' behaviou was in violation of international humanitarian law

    "Hamas authorities in Gaza must immediately end the cruel and inhuman treatment of Gilad Shalit," they said.

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